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New style action vs old style action films - camera techniques
12-07-2018, 08:25 AM
Post: #1
New style action vs old style action films - camera techniques
Hi,

Has anyone noticed that since The Bourne Identity in 2002, most of the action movies out there have used a shaky camera setup with multiple quick edits/cuts?

The Bourne movies started the shaky camera and quick edits to add a sense of realism (in your face action) and also hide the fact that Matt Damon is not a true martial arts expert.

The (good) action movies from the old days, kept the camera steady with wide shots so you could see the action and the skill of the actors clearly.

While I am a fan of the 2nd and 3rd Bourne movies (more for the car stunts and the plot), I find that 99% of modern action movies seem to be over using that style of camera work, pioneered in those films, to mass effect.

The newer F&F movies (Part 5 was the best, in my opinion, and all went downhill since) and the recent Marvel movies as well seem to overload on quick cuts and frenzied camera shaking. Don't get me started on Taken 3, which had a million cuts and camera jerks whenever Liam Neeson did any action (I guess this was to hide the fact that he may no longer have the stamina to hold together a fight sequence for one single, long take - like in Taken 1).

Which brings me to the Mission Impossible franchise. The 1st one in 1996 had the best thriller director in the world at that time (Brian De Palma - watch his earlier movies), who was renowned for long, fluid takes with nice wide shots of slow building action. The 2nd one picked up the action, but while John Woo started adding quick cuts, as is his trademark in Hong Kong action films, he at least kept the camera steady (not crazy shaking). The 3rd-5th films then went against the current Hollywood trends and kept the action scenes in focus - old school, steady camera style (ignoring some CGI here and there).

The Burj tower scene in MI:IV is how an action scene should be set up and shot - a clear, steady, swooping camera, wide angle shot (with a little bit of close, shaky camera work only when the plot actually calls for it!) with tension building up before the stunt all the way to the end, in a progressive manner. This is brilliant action film making. Now compare that to the car stunt (flying through the Burj?) in the similar location in Dubai in FF7 - the scene had no sense of realism or danger, no build up, no class.

Other great MI scenes, that utilise old school camera shooting styles:
- Bridge assault MI:III
- Car tower parking lot climax MI:IV
- Opera Assassination MI:V
- M3+ Motorbike chase MI:V

Which is why I am so keen on watching MI:6 - coming out on 27 July. Yes, there are some stunts that defy the laws of physics, at times, but for me the action in the recent MI movies is shot in a coherent, old school manner that represents how an action movie should be shot.

Side note - besides the big budget MI movies, I noticed that there are some good low budget action movies in the last few years that have stuck to the old school camera set up and the action scenes are pretty good. Granted, these low budget stories are crap. A recent movie I watched was "Acts of Vengence" with Antonio Banderas doing his own fights (he must have trained really hard) in single, clear, long takes.

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12-07-2018, 09:04 AM
Post: #2
RE: New style action vs old style action films - camera techniques
Ahh, actually youre right. i did see a video on youtube not too long ago where they discussed a very similar thing. i cant remember which movie it was exactly, but they used an example where the scenes cut in/out so much, that you dont actually see anyone actually get hit, its just violent fist throwing and kicks that rapidly change from scene to scene.

Because the cameras are so shaky, and the scenes switch so fast.. theres alot of detail that gets lost because they try to make it more "exciting". its a shame, because i find these films quite nauseating after a while.

The Bourne Identity seems to have started a trend with this style of filming, and other people seem to have copied it, but have over exaggerated it.
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12-07-2018, 09:18 AM
Post: #3
RE: New style action vs old style action films - camera techniques
I love shaky camera scenes, this is my favorite to date. I remember the first time I watched this movie I couldn't breathe during this scene. No talk, just fighting. The way they cut the scenes but you could still see the fight progression and attacks etc. The organised chaos and random hot chick scene during such a messy situation...
Then there is the way the camera changes angles when he is choking him with the towel so you can see each fighters perspective and be there with them right in the action. The camera angle moves up and away from the scene when the bad guy dies to show the end of a what is an epic fight scene kinda like his soul leaving his body and we are in 3rd party.

PraisePraisePraisePraise





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12-07-2018, 10:34 AM (This post was last modified: 12-07-2018 10:43 AM by MR_Y.)
Post: #4
RE: New style action vs old style action films - camera techniques
(12-07-2018 09:18 AM)Dirtydeedsman Wrote:  I love shaky camera scenes, this is my favorite to date. I remember the first time I watched this movie I couldn't breathe during this scene. No talk, just fighting. The way they cut the scenes but you could still see the fight progression and attacks etc. The organised chaos and random hot chick scene during such a messy situation...
Then there is the way the camera changes angles when he is choking him with the towel so you can see each fighters perspective and be there with them right in the action. The camera angle moves up and away from the scene when the bad guy dies to show the end of a what is an epic fight scene kinda like his soul leaving his body and we are in 3rd party.

PraisePraisePraisePraise




Yeah, that scene was excellent.
But, it is like peri peri xtra hot.
You need to apply it a little bit in special places in a movie, in just the right amount.
Today's movies dump the whole sauce bottle on the movie.




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Perfect example of dropping the whole peri peri sauce bottle on every scene.

Count how many fast cuts they made to just show Liam Neeson jump over one fence...

https://youtu.be/gCKhktcbfQM

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The M3 scene in MI 5.
This is class.

https://youtu.be/7qlt-WEtc70

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13-07-2018, 07:42 AM
Post: #5
RE: New style action vs old style action films - camera techniques
I wouldn't necessarily call this a camera technique but rather an edit technique.

Fast shaky camera movements with quick edits are not used by filmmakers to create a sense of realism, but rather a sense of pace. Used to motivate the urgency of a moment or highlight the magnitude of action. Albeit overly used in many of today's films, so in that regard we are in agreement.

As you said above, often one finds that an aging star is not able to keep up with the required stunts for the film. Sometimes his/her stunt double is too easily noticed. In both these cases an edit will need to be done to hide the mistake by using the available coverage given to the editor. Any good filmmaker will know to shoot coverage.

Coverage is created when a film shoot will roll 3 or more cameras on big action scenes, thus giving an editor the option to cut between these 3 or more angles to create pace and or hide mistakes. Again, this can sometimes be detrimental to a scene as too much coverage can allow an editor to get carried away with his cuts and instead of creating a natural pace, we get a pace that is too noticeable. Another filmmaker choice that can be the reason for these scenes coming across as too "frantic", is lens size. Using a longer lens will compress spacing and create more depth of field, thus making things even harder to follow when the camera is moving fast and shaking. Lastly, shutter speed will greatly impact the motion blur in a scene. Films are shot at 24 frames per second with a 180 degree shutter. Dropping your shutter to 90 degrees will deliver a sharper image and is often used in big action scenes to help dilute the motion blur.

Again, the above technique is not done for realism.

You want to add realism to your action scenes, you shoot wide angle, hand held, long takes, very few cuts and create depth in your shots. Foreground and background. A good example of this is Saving Private Ryan ... This style is known as cinema vérité. That is used for realism.

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13-07-2018, 09:10 AM
Post: #6
RE: New style action vs old style action films - camera techniques
this is one of the better fight scenes i've seen. Mad Max was just pure awesomeness from start to finish:



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13-07-2018, 12:55 PM
Post: #7
RE: New style action vs old style action films - camera techniques
(13-07-2018 07:42 AM)Crash_Nemesis Wrote:  I wouldn't necessarily call this a camera technique but rather an edit technique.

Fast shaky camera movements with quick edits are not used by filmmakers to create a sense of realism, but rather a sense of pace. Used to motivate the urgency of a moment or highlight the magnitude of action. Albeit overly used in many of today's films, so in that regard we are in agreement.

As you said above, often one finds that an aging star is not able to keep up with the required stunts for the film. Sometimes his/her stunt double is too easily noticed. In both these cases an edit will need to be done to hide the mistake by using the available coverage given to the editor. Any good filmmaker will know to shoot coverage.

Coverage is created when a film shoot will roll 3 or more cameras on big action scenes, thus giving an editor the option to cut between these 3 or more angles to create pace and or hide mistakes. Again, this can sometimes be detrimental to a scene as too much coverage can allow an editor to get carried away with his cuts and instead of creating a natural pace, we get a pace that is too noticeable. Another filmmaker choice that can be the reason for these scenes coming across as too "frantic", is lens size. Using a longer lens will compress spacing and create more depth of field, thus making things even harder to follow when the camera is moving fast and shaking. Lastly, shutter speed will greatly impact the motion blur in a scene. Films are shot at 24 frames per second with a 180 degree shutter. Dropping your shutter to 90 degrees will deliver a sharper image and is often used in big action scenes to help dilute the motion blur.

Again, the above technique is not done for realism.

You want to add realism to your action scenes, you shoot wide angle, hand held, long takes, very few cuts and create depth in your shots. Foreground and background. A good example of this is Saving Private Ryan ... This style is known as cinema vérité. That is used for realism.
Respect, sir.

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14-07-2018, 06:40 PM
Post: #8
New style action vs old style action films - camera techniques
Early MI Fallout reviews are promising.
Have to watch this in imax...

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